I had gone on a sort of self-guided tour of Granada, passed through the markets at Rivas and Masaya, hiked around Ometepe, and made a brief stop at San Juan del Sur, the beach town made infamous by its Sunday Funday bar crawl. But so far, I felt like I hadn’t really gotten to know the country— like I had been holding it at arm’s length. In León, I finally felt immersed.
Everything about Ometepe revolves around its volcanoes; geologically, the island grew up around them, and today its main streets circle their bases. Even the island’s original name, Ometepl, comes from the Nahuatl ome tepetl: two mountains. Basically, they’re a big deal.
I didn’t know any of that when I arrived there, though—hiking Volcán Maderas was barely on my radar. My adventurous, way-more-fit-than-me French friends from Granada talked me into it. And by “talked me into it” I obviously mean they talked about it amongst themselves in French, and then I got an abbreviated version of the plan in broken Spanish the day before we set off. So, you could say I was pretty prepared.
Out of the midst of the beautiful Lake Nicaragua spring two magnificent pyramids, clad in the softest and richest green, all flecked with shadow and sunshine, whose summits pierce the billowy clouds. They look so isolated from the world and its turmoil so tranquil, so dreamy, so steeped in slumber and eternal repose.
– Mark Twain
Isla de Ometepe: a volcanic island in Lake Nicaragua, with UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status, 5 distinct ecosystems, twin volcanoes connected by an isthmus of ancient lava, an impressive array of rare species, and thousands of ancient petroglyphs. Like most of its visitors, I came here looking for some vague blend of quietude, isolation, and what guidebooks like to call “adventure.” Ometepe is known for offering all three, which is impressive when you consider its proximity to other, more developed tourist hubs.
When I booked my flight to Nicaragua, I knew I wanted to land in Managua…but book it straight to Granada. Kicking off my trip in a massive urban center didn’t sound great, and I had heard great things about the colonial city to the south.
Skipping the Nicaraguan capital did make me feel sort of guilty, but Granada is sort of like the de facto capital of Nicaragua, I reasoned—or at least one of them, alongside León.
I am verrrrry behind in getting this website up—like 2 years behind. Back in 2016, I was all gung-ho about documenting my trip through Central America, Mexico, Colombia, and Hawaii. But then… I didn’t. And life kept happening. Now, as I’m solidifying plans for my next big trip, I’m playing catch up. Before I kick off my next international trip, I’ll be writing up some of the stops I made through Central America and Hawaii, formally cataloging all the photos and notes that I’ve been sitting on for the last year.
Before I dive into the details, here’s a quick roundup of what I spent 7 months in Latin America doing.